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December 18, 2006
ALTA BADIA, ITALY – (USST News Bureau Release) – In an historic moment, Olympic champion Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) gave the U.S. men’s alpine team a World Cup podium finish for the fourth consecutive day, finishing second in a slalom. Jimmy Cochran (Keene, NH) was 13th.
Ligety’s podium, his second of the season, marks the first time U.S. skiers have been on a World Cup podium in four alpine races in four days. U.S. men took five World Cup podiums a year ago – but they were in three straight races over three days. But never 4-for-4…until Monday.
Ligety, third in a giant slalom Dec. 2 at the VISA Birds of Prey races in Beaver Creek, CO, had a two-run time of 1:44.70 while Cochran turned in the second-fastest final run to move up 14 places for his second top-15 of the winter (1:45.47). When first-run leader Stephane Tissot of France crashed midway through his second run, Sweden’s Markus Larsson won in 1:44.51. Snowfall in the morning and then lighter snow for the second run caused flat light for the racers.
WCSN.com will broadcast same-day video streaming beginning at 2 p.m. ET.
Bode Miller (Bretton Woods, NH), who kicked off the momentous surge by the American men when he won the Val Gardena super G Friday, missed a gate Monday on the first run of slalom. Saturday, Steven Nyman (Provo, UT) won the 50th Saslong Classic downhill, also in Val Gardena, and Miller was back on the podium Sunday, finishing second in a giant slalom behind Kalle Palander of Finland.
After 12 World Cup races, three U.S. men are in the top seven in the overall points – Miller in third place, Ligety in fifth and Nyman in seventh.
First run sets up Ligety’s podium
Ligety, hobbled earlier this season by a broken bone in his right hand, which made it tough for him to pole plant in slalom, was fourth in the first run Monday behind Tissot. His attacking first run set the stage for his podium as he skied methodically through the tough conditions on the final course.
“My slalom’s been a little bit of a struggle lately and I needed this boost of confidence. It’s a really good day,” Ligety said. “My hand’s getting better every day. I still tape it up to keep it stable, but I’m even slowly getting to the point where I can make my pole plants” which can be so important in slalom.
The Olympic combined gold medalist last February – also in Italy – said the surge by the U.S. men has been contagious. “It’s awesome, especially with Nyman the other day. It was so cool to watch him. I’ve been skiing with him since I was 13 and to see him come through and get that first World Cup win definitely was awesome.
“I think the team’s got good momentum, especially when guys like Nyman and Marco (Sullivan Squaw Valley, CA, who was fourth Saturday in DH) do well. We expect Bode to do these things, and it’s exciting. We get fired up when he does it, for sure, but I mean Nyman winni> ng and Marco was injured for two years and now to come back and be fourth, just a hundredth (of a second) off the podium, is awesome,” Ligety said.
The first run saw tricky conditions, he explained, because of rain during the night and morning snowfall. “I went No. 5 and the top was good but when I got to the bottom, it was already breaking down – there were two holds, and that only got worse. On the second run, though, the top was good and things held up better.”
Cochran devoured better conditions on second run
Cochran said, “I’m psyched with my second run. I kinda pushed it and it’s paid off. The biggest thing was the course conditions. I’m having trouble in the ruts and though I started 27th (and was 27th) in the first, there were some big ruts. But I went fourth in the second and it was perfect and I could attack…even though when that sun’s gone, there’s no contrast” to spot tricky snow conditions.
He praised the race crew for preparing a good course despite the lack of snowfall in sso much of Europe. “They always do a good job here,” Cochran said.
Head Coach Phil McNichol was understandably pleased with the parade of U.S. podiums in the Dolomites. “Two first, two seconds – pretty good show by the boys. That’s a podium in every discipline, and that’s epic,” he said.
“Ted was very solid today, a little disappointed he didn’t win – he was going for the victory, as usual – but that’ll come. And Jimmy had a great second run, which ought to help boost his confidence…
“Conditions were really tough because it rained last night and then snowed a little bit,” McNichol added, “and then we had a little bit for the first, so a little new snow on top of the rain makes that snow rough, and it was tough. Second run was much better because it was slipped off and the snow got to sit with the cold air on it.”
The men’s schedule resumes Wednesday with a super G in Hinterstoder, Austria, followed by a giant slalom Thursday leading into the Christmas break. Some of the athletes will take time at the men’s new training base in Paganella, Italy – also in the Dolomites – before the speed skiers head to Bormio for the traditional downhill Dec. 29.
For complete results: http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/1228.html?cal_suchsector=AL&event_id=21889.